Kiama councillors have unanimously rejected a request to allow the Gerringong Library building to exceed its approved height by over a metre.
“We cannot be hypocrites when it comes to enforcing our height limits,” said Deputy Mayor Andrew Sloan in putting a motion to reject the request and seek compensation for making the mistake right.
“We need everyone to know that we take complying with our LEP height limits very seriously.
“It is very embarrassing for us to be in this position, and it is going to be very costly.
“It should have been picked up earlier.”
The request to modify the consent was lodged after Council (as the applicant) discovered in late February that a design change to the pitch of the roof by the architect had resulted in a height of 10.345 metres, compared to the approved 9.04 metres.
The change to the pitch of the roof from 35 degrees to 40 degrees was made to ‘better respect the existing heritage item on site’.
The project is using a private certifier. The report to the June Council meeting says certifier was told by the architect that the construction certificate plans were consistent with the development approval.
The height discrepancy was only discovered when a neighbour queried the building’s size.
The report to Council by the Director Environmental Services, informed by a report by the private certifier, argued unique circumstances warrented the modification being granted. These included lack of intention for the control to be circumvented by the applicant (Council); no specific height controls for half of the building’s site; and no impact on the neighbours, streetscape or intended use.
It argued requiring strict complience to the height limit would be unreasonable and unnecessary in the circumstances and no public benefit would be achieved.
“What the community would see on a day to day basis is a building that Council has built that hasn’t satisfied the same controls.
“We would never be able to move away from that.
“I would prefer that Council is seen by the community as a body that upholds its planning controls and is seen to be trustworthy and reputable.
“It is not appropriate that we accept what has been a terrible mistake and is going to be expensive to repair.”
Councillor Neil Reilly agreed, “We are making a decision against our own construction.
“We have to hold ourselves to the same standards we hold the community.”
Council’s General Manager, Kerry McMurray says he wasn’t surprised by the decision.
“Council have on multiple occasions pushed hard on height limits.
“Every applicant is entitled to lodge a modification, and ours got treated the same as it would do if it was from anybody else.”
Mayor Mark Honey says councillors are constantly being asked to make decision on variations to the LEP and DCP, and consistency is necessary.
“If we are seen to be going around those conditions ourselves, it doesn’t give us any hope of supporting our defence of the LEP and DCP when other developers are trying to get things through.”
The element exceeding the height limit is the curved roof, representing approximately 45% of the roof area.
At time of writing, the rectification situation – in terms of cost, compensation and time – is still unclear, given the councillors had made their decision the night before.
“Potentially, the only piece that may need to be undone is the top capping, which may need to be removed and redesigned,” says Council’s General Manager.
“The rest of the building will stay.
“We need to sit down with the architects and rework it.”
Once the problem was identified after the structure was completed, a request to modify was lodged and work continues on the project to reach lock up stage. This is necessary to meet a milestone in the grant funding.
It is too early to say if the Federal grant funding will be affected by the modification work which will be required.
The Library/Museum complex was on schedule for handover late August, early September.
Neither the Museum (in the old School of Arts) or the community facility building are affected by the issue.